Death Stranding is a difficult game to describe, to the point where Hideo Kojima apparently had to invent his own genre “strand game” to properly label his latest work. It’s… an interesting approach to genre, and even if it seems silly, keep in mind that the stealth genre didn’t exist when Metal Gear originally released on the MSX2 in 87. When it comes down to it, though, “strand game” is basically gibberish and doesn’t say anything meaningful.
It might gain its weight in retrospect, but it’s impossible to tell what impact Death Stranding will have on the gaming industry– if it has one at all. It’s a game clouded in mystery despite its extensive marketing, which arguably only makes it all the more appealing. That said, Death Stranding is a long journey that demands commitment, and some details would’ve been nice to know beforehand.
10 The Opening Hours Are Slooooow
The marketing was pretty upfront about Death Stranding being a slower game, but given how AAA it looks on a surface level, some players may have misunderstood just how slow Death Stranding would be. Those first few hours are incredibly slow, dragging at an almost crawl at times. But it’s not boring.
Far from it. If anything, these opening hours are some of Death Stranding’s strongest moments for those that allow themselves a chance to immerse in a desolate America. Big budget games never open this delicately, but it’s a refreshing change of pace and one that benefits Death Stranding in the long run.
9 Episodes 1 Through 3 Are Much Longer Than The Rest
Death Stranding is ultimately composed of 14 episodes, but those first three episodes are incredibly long– arguably to a fault. Episodes 2 and 3, in particular, eat up a lot of time. For those who just want to get into the gameplay right away, that’s a good thing. These two episodes help ease audiences into the gameplay loop slowly.
Narratively, though, get ready to move at a crawl. The story is genuinely engaging and Kojima’s storytelling is more in-line with the earlier MGS games than the later ones, but these two episodes are sloooooow burns. From episode 4 onwards, however, Death Stranding starts to move at a brisker pace.
8 Sam Can Fight Back… Eventually
Death Stranding had a lot of marketing, but it kept some details obscure. For those who didn’t know where to look, whether or not the game actually had combat of any kind was a main concern. Kojima himself kept mum as well, showing much less action footage than usual. Going into Death Stranding, it’s not unreasonable to assume it’ll be a pacifistic stealth-esque game.
But that doesn’t quite sell the full picture. Sam can fight back later in the game. He has his fists early on to engage with MULEs, but guns and grenades end up rounding out his roster to make him a proper action character. A slower one who won’t be fighting often, but an action character nonetheless.
7 MULEs Are Super Easy To Deal With
Death Stranding presents its enemies with a considerable amount of weight, to the point where more anxious players will never realize just how easy it is to survive virtually any encounter in the game. MULEs can be overwhelming in packs, but more often than not, they’ll rush Sam in pairs or even one at a time. Not just that, their AI doesn’t always behave in the most strategically sound of ways.
With Sam’s strand, it’s incredibly easy to counter any attack and dispatch of foes. Even without the strand, Sam’s melee attacks chain into each other fluidly enough where taking out a MULE is really as simple as hitting them from the right angle so they don’t block. Don’t be scared. Take out those MULEs.
6 Stand Still To See BTs
Those who just want to get through BT sections as fast as possible will miss this incredibly important detail. By staying still, Sam can see the BTs around him. This is an incredibly handy mechanic, one that actually presents an opportunity to plot a route or even take out BTs with a Hematic Grenade.
Of course, BB does serve an important purpose, so it’s always going to be wise to stay on the move and find the right path instinctively, but BT encounters can get incredibly overwhelming– especially if they go south. Take a moment, breathe (and then stop), and look for some BTs.
5 Online Structures Keep The Game Forgiving
Death Stranding’s online components is one of the best aspects of the game, and that it ties into the story’s core themes perfectly is one of the best aspects of interacting with others’ structures online. Unfortunately, this solidarity will make the game much easier for anyone who’s either coming in late or is looking to take advantage of everyone’s hard work.
Which is fair, and what the game is ultimately designed around from a conceptual level, but the actual level and order design often flies in the face of what players can create. Keep in mind that taking advantage of everything online has to offer will make the game considerably easier– but that, too, is part of the Death Stranding experience.
4 Get Ready For Boss Fights
It was up in the air for a bit whether or not Death Stranding would actually have boss fights, but Hideo Kojima does not disappoint. Although they’re not quite on the same level as Metal Gear’s bosses at their best (in terms of personality), Death Stranding’s boss fights are all exciting and genuinely engaging, really selling the inherent horror of Death Stranding.
The first boss, in particular, nails the tension, putting Sam in a sudden do or die scenario out of nowhere. It’s stressful, anxiety-inducing, and really forces players to use everything they have on them to stay alive and fight back. Death Stranding’s bosses can be potential wars of attrition.
3 Leveling Up Matters
Death Stranding’s five pointed rank system might seem like typical online progression fluff, but it actually ends up playing a real role in how Sam progresses as a character. Delivery time, delivery load, delivery condition– they all play a role in how Sam levels up. Upon hitting certain benchmarks, Sam will be able to carry more cargo or even make more Strand Connections.
This is an incredibly important aspect of the game, one that can lighten the load significantly. Just playing the game naturally will level Sam up so there’s never a need to go out of the way and grind or anything too RPG-esque like that, but there are real, tangible benefits to leveling up.
2 Returning Online Cargo Is A Waste Of Time
Ever notice how returning cargo to the right spot ends up netting way more likes than just passing that cargo off? The same philosophy applies to online cargo, but quite frankly, it’s not really worth the effort of returning online cargo to the right terminals. Most of the time, just offloading everything in one go yields enough benefits.
Those abusing the share lockers will certainly feel similarly, as it’s entirely possible to just rip everything out of a locker and then deliver it as lost cargo. It’s an incredibly fast way to level up. The share locker is probably the fastest way to get guaranteed levels early on, making the online half of the game all the more prominent.
1 Don’t Sweat Completing The Side Orders
Look, with a game like Death Stranding, there’s an itch to do everything possible before moving on, but don’t sweat it. Fragile’s fast travel system opens in Chapter 3 and makes getting around America all the easier. Not just that, those orders aren’t going anywhere. Enjoy the story for the bit and then come back.
But seriously, do progress the plot. Death Stranding’s pacing is basically fool-proof since the game is slow by design, but getting too caught in the side content will ultimately make a slow story all the slower. If nothing else, maybe take a break from side content during episode 3 to let the story breathe and progress.